Ah, May…caught somewhere between Easter and the peak tourist season. Warmer and drier than April, but not as hot as the summer.
In other words, a decent time to visit Vienna. Particularly if you enjoy your music, food and drink, for May is a month full of classical and culinary festivals.
Top activities in May 2022
So, aside from the usual museums, galleries and other sights, what does May offer the discerning visitor to Vienna?
Exhibitions in May
(The Albertina Modern hosts a wonderful Ai Weiwei exhibition)
Plans for this month include these rather intriguing possibilities:
- A Josef Hoffmann exhibition at the MAK museum
- A comprehensive David Hockney exhibition at the Kunstforum Wien
- Edvard Munch gets some love and affection at the Albertina along with Hans Weigand (from May 19th), while Ai Weiwei and drawings by Klimt appear at the Albertina Modern
- Discover the relationship between Dalí and Freud at Belvedere (until May 29th), 100 years of realist paintings, and an exploration of art-driven perceptions of Venice. I also like the sound of Face to Face: a dialogue between Marc Quinn sculptures and some Baroque busts
- The Leopold Museum drops us into the wild imagination of Alfred Kubin and has some remarkable writer portraits by some equally remarkable artists
- The immersive touring Klimt exhibition sets up stall in the Marx Halle
- Admire the beauty of historical majolica earthenware at the MAK and Chaekgeori Korean painting at the Weltmuseum
- Explore the Viennese Rothschilds and also (until May 15th) the story of the Kindertransporte at the Jewish Museum
- Catch the last days of Home Stories (until May 29th), where the Furniture Museum explores key moments in interior decorating
- Take a trip through the art and artistry of renaissance armour at the Kunsthistorisches Museum’s Iron Men exhibition
- View the Emperor’s most beautiful animals in painted form at the National Library’s state hall
- Enjoy the medium of air caught through the medium of photography at the Kunst Haus Wien’s When the Wind Blows exhibition
- Travel through time and the streets of Vienna at the Wien Museum MUSA’s Instantly! photo exhibition (from May 19th)
- And a journey of a different kind: Foodprints at the Technical Museum casts a light on the past, present and future role of food technology
- For more exhibition choices, see the listings.
And a couple of bonus tips for those with a hankering for creativity:
- The Edelstoff design market hits town on May 7th and 8th
- The Art Austria art fair fills the MuseumsQuartier between (for the public) May 6th and 8th
- The Parallel Editions version of Parallel Vienna puts the focus on art editions between May 12th and May 15th
Bring a glass
Not all the slopes in Austria are for skiing down. The country has a lot of vineyards (as does Vienna itself). Last time I checked the statistics, Austrians also drink more beer per head than anybody except our thirsty Czech neighbours.
Vienna’s bars and restaurants allow you to taste the local beers and wines, or you can visit these festivals in May:
- The two-day spring version of the Craft Bier Fest (May 13th to 14th) attracts dozens of breweries from around the country and abroad, who are all happy to provide a sample for you to taste in exchange for a coin or two
- The city-owned Cobenzl winery has an open day on May 14th, which is free. Though you do have to pay if you want to try some of the (excellent) wines. The winery also sits on a hill with lovely views across the city
- If the idea of wine sounds tempting, then consider the VieVinum, an international wine festival at the Hofburg palace (May 21st to 23rd).
- Lifting the alcohol content a little, the Vienna Gin Festival is scheduled for May 6th and 7th
Bring a plate
A fine glass of wine or beer goes better with a fine dish of regional food. And, as luck would have it, there are plenty of food festivals in May, too.
- Burgenland is a small province east of Vienna, and the Burgenland Kultinarium (May 23rd to 25th) festival encourages you to learn about the area with the help of large quantities of its wonderful food and drink
- The 3-day Waldviertelpur festival (May 18th to 20th in 2022) features the best of the Waldviertel region (a rural area northwest of Vienna). This includes their rather hearty cuisine, particularly a myriad different things you can do with poppy seeds
- Planned for May 6th to 8th, the Genuss Festival in the Stadtpark showcases the best of Austria’s agricultural and viticultural regions
- The European Street Food festival (May 21st and 22nd) rolls into town with trucks and stalls tempting you with a wide diversity of culinary delights from around the globe
- The Wiener Zitrustage or Vienna Citrus Days (May 26th to 29th) add a little fizz and colour to the month in the rather apt location of the Schönbrunn Palace orangery
- The Bauernmarkt unter Palmen occupies the palm house in the central Burggarten park from May 19th to 22nd: a pop-up market featuring small-scale farmers and food start ups from the Vienna region
Find accommodation in May
(Service provided by booking.com*, who I am an affiliate of)
Enjoy the music & celebrations
The 2022 May festivals don’t end there, either.
- The Vienna Blues Spring festival continues throughout May with appearances by local and international performers
- And the Vienna Mozart Orchestra continues its visitor-friendly Mozart highlights in the astonishing grandeur of the famous Musikverein concert building
- The Gemischter Satz festival at the Konzerthaus venue combines one of Vienna’s notable wine products with classical music and more (May 13th and 14th)
- The Donaukanaltreiben festival (2022 dates TBA) celebrates urban life with a party-like atmosphere down by the Danube Canal that runs alongside Vienna’s city centre. Think live music, bars, street food, flea markets and similar
- Think of the Steffl Kirtag (May 26th to June 6th) outside the cathedral as a cross between a village funfair and a Christmas market (but without the Christmas part)
- Music features strongly at the Südwind Straßenfest (May 14th and 15th), which celebrates the work of NGOs, with food stands, a fair-trade market, and the chance to learn about the work done by dozens of charities
- The Fest der Freude (May 8th) celebrates the liberation of Vienna and the end of Nazi rule with a free concert on Heldenplatz square next to the Hofburg palace. The Vienna Symphony orchestra performs, with the event also in remembrance of those who suffered at the hands of that occupation
(Heldenplatz – home to the Fest der Freude open-air concert)
Go for a swim (or run)
Vienna’s numerous outdoor public swimming facilities should open up for the summer from early May. These include:
- Family facilities, with shallow pools and family-friendly prices
- Multipurpose facilities, with both indoor and outdoor pools
- Summer facilities with open-air pools only, including large riverside recreational areas such as the Gänsehäufel
Two running events in May:
- The ASICS Austrian Women’s Run (May 22nd)
- The Wings for Life World Run with a flagship event in Vienna (May 8th).
Buy some popcorn
International film festivals normally fill Viennese screens during May. For example:
- The Jewish Film Festival (April 24th to May 8th) shows local and international movies that explore Jewish life in all its forms and contexts
- The prestigious Vienna Shorts Festival (May 25th to 30th) tackles the short form version of movie-making, covering numerous genres and featuring some high-quality competitions, too
- The Ethnocineca international documentary film festival (May 12th to 19th), which focuses on critical evaluation of social, political and cultural structures.
- The Festival du Film Francophone brings the brilliance of French-speaking cinema to Vienna (April 26th to May 5th)
Enjoy the flowers
By early May, the spring flower displays planted by the city or national parks authorities are normally in full bloom. Try, for example:
- Schönbrunn Palace – the landscaped gardens in front of the palace are gorgeous. But also take the time to drop into the Kronprinzengarten, a privy garden with geometric shapes made of flower beds and different-coloured gravel
- The Rathauspark – the park surrounding the Rathausplatz square in the centre is usually full of tulips
- The gardens between the two Baroque palaces at Belvedere should have a flower or three by now
- The Volksgarten – a public gardens opposite the Rathausplatz and home to hundreds of different rose varieties
- Hirschstetten – a large (and beautiful) landscaped gardens and park area that actually serves as a plant nursery facility for the city